Driving west on Interstate 70, the senses are suddenly overcome by sulfur. You’ve made it to Glenwood Springs.
The egglike odor has to do with the geothermal happenings deep beneath the town’s surface. It’s a natural occurrence that’s to thank for the famed hot springs here. The big pool you see beside I-70? That’s the world’s biggest pool of water heated by the Earth.
No matter the stench, drivers can’t resist pulling over.
The pool put this town on the map in 1888. That’s when a group of investors opened Glenwood Hot Springs Resort after harnessing the water the Ute knew as Yampah, meaning “Big Medicine.” People from everywhere traveled to the emerging West for an amenity that promised healing in the warm embrace of mountain splendor.
They continue to come. And now, across from the historic resort, a pedestrian bridge conveniently stretches above the interstate to downtown and Grand Avenue.
Grand — it’s a fitting name for the main street.
Hundreds of T-shirts, hats, mugs and shot glasses to go with Southwest-style purses, pillows, blankets, mats and pottery, to go with all-natural lotions, oils and soaps. Dancing Bear Trading Post has it all. And whatever oddity you can’t find there, check out Crystal Tuning. It’s Grand Avenue’s longtime dealer of rocks, gems, fossils and metaphysical essentials.
Independent boutiques spot the main drag for your next unique wardrobe addition. A La Carte calls itself “a boutique with every woman in mind.” It has every home in mind, too, with stylish decor. “Chic, earthy-luxe” is the word from one strong review for Elizabeth Dean Boutique.
A block over, on Eighth Street, woman-owned and operated Bleu Door Boutique curates handmade jewelry and fine gifts. Also nearby, inside Hotel Denver, Mona Lisa has been voted the locals’ favorite.
Back on Grand Avenue, Bullocks is the trusted source for Western wear, run by three generations of family. The shop sits on the site where “Doc” Holliday died. He’s memorialized with items from his personal collection and merchandise for sale.
Toys, games, puzzles and more for your little one at Glenwood Toys and Gifts. Hiding off Grand Avenue, a man obsessed with typewriters repairs and sells them at Raymond’s Office Machines.
Food and drink
On the other side of the pedestrian bridge over the highway is a cluster of great sit-downs.
Smoke Modern BBQ swaps the stereotypical Southern shack for an upscale setting and opts for creative takes on traditional styles. It’s a similarly modern setting nearby at Ming’s Cafe, where locals crave the sushi and chicken from the wok. Also by this strip is Slope and Hatch, a hip, counter-serve spot for hot dogs, tacos and beer.
You’ll want to make a reservation at Riviera Supper Club, a staple with a rotating menu that at last check featured sweet and spicy Brussels spouts, shaved prime rib and beef Wellington. Colorado Ranch House matches its Western environment with a menu of elk, smoked trout and duck wings. Another upscale option is The Pullman, with a rotating menu of thoughtfully crafted plates.
Along with its steaks and historic interior, Juicy Lucy’s is known for its chocolate mousse pie. For more casual, Glenwood Canyon Brewpub’s grub and suds are tried and true.
South out of downtown on Grand Avenue is the old-school 19th Street Diner. Farther down the road is Sweet Coloradough, where the owner is full of jokes. His doughnuts and hot sandwiches are anything but.
If you haven’t tried beet sugar spirits, chances are you haven’t even heard of it. Dotsero-based Stoneyard Distillery has a tasting room of bizarre booze on Grand Avenue.
Can’t leave town without a stop at Doc Holliday’s Saloon.
Glenwood Vaudeville Revue promises a night of family fun with dinner and a show downtown. Choose your bites carefully, as you’re sure to laugh along with the comedy skits, dancing and singing.
Not far from the town center is the trailhead leading to Holliday’s grave. It’s a short, uphill trek that’ll have you taking plenty of scenic pictures before the infamous marker.
Besides the hot springs, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is the top summertime attraction in town. It prides itself as America’s only mountaintop theme park. And the attractions are more than meet the eye. See about the subterranean tour of the Fairy Caves.